Clearing an Obstructed View – How Can Project Managers Gain Insight into Their Portfolios?


Yasser Mahmud,
Vice President Industry Strategy and Business Development
Primavera Global Business Unit, Oracle



Timely visibility
! It is generally accepted wisdom that this quality is a key ingredient for C-level success. But it remains both an elusive and oftentimes misunderstood concept in project portfolio management—sometimes even the most seemingly straightforward questions about if a project budget is on track, or who is involved on a given project are difficult to answer. Therefore, if visibility is needed for success, the lack of visibility is a major, if not critical, dilemma.

So, why is the information reaching executives so poor? And is there more to the issue than just the quality and quantity of information? These are the questions that project managers and executives face—here are the answers to help remedy the situation to gain and share a more complete and accurate view of project portfolios.

The Role of Excessive Optimism

Unsurprisingly, project teams do not always divulge all information to their superiors. They tend to only flag headline information—not all relevant details—to avoid a conflict and more difficult operating conditions. The Cranfield School of Management found that this is primarily attributed to the role of excessive-optimism that occurs in project management, especially in the planning and delivery stages of a project.

Project teams also tend to apply this optimism when something is going wrong with a project. They do not share the information with executives, because they expect the project to be successful in the end—which is not always the case. And, they believe that as soon as they raise a red flag they will be judged with additional oversight, administration, and reporting requirements, resulting in further obstacles to completion.

However, the reality is that if the C-suite has all of the information—good and bad—executives are able to identify strategies and drive the action needed to get a project back on track.

Other than leading to missed deadlines and overspending, the lack of visibility caused by over-optimism can have more profound effects, cause critical issues to escalate quickly and extending the time it takes to find a solution—all of which can happen very publicly.

Clearing the Road to Complete and Timely Visibility

To overcome these obstacles, executives must enact a cultural change across their organization. This can be achieved through more anonymous information, most often delivered via a greater use of applications and mobile devices in real-time.

Anonymous feedback allows teams to be honest about what is going on with a project and enables senior executives to see a more complete picture in a timely manner. And, while it is in the early stages of maturity, the gamification of corporate applications has potential to accelerate this feedback, which could prove to benefit organizations by getting a higher volume of feedback from the ground level and in more real-time.


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About the Author



Yasser Mahmud

Oracle Primavera



Yasser Mahmud
is Vice President of Industry Strategy at Oracle’s Primavera Global Business Unit. Primavera is one of six, self -contained global business units at Oracle. Yasser was a member of the Primavera management team, prior to the acquisition of Primavera by Oracle in 2008. At Primavera, Yasser has served in leadership roles in strategy, marketing, business development and product management since 2002. Before joining Primavera, Yasser worked in various strategy, engineering, and consulting positions at Motorola, Toshiba, EXE Technologies, & Manhattan Associates.   He holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In his spare time he loves to ride his restored Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. He can be followed on twitter under the handle: #yasser_mahmud.